The Last Five Years at Garrick Theatre
The Last 5 Years is a two-person musical focusing on the breakdown of a relationship between Jamie (Oli Higginson), a successful author, and Cathy (Molly Lynch), a struggling actress. The production plays with chronology to highlight the disconnect between the two characters: Cathy’s story begins at the end of their marriage (Still Hurting), when she is reeling after reading a note Jamie has left her saying he is ending their partnership. Cathy’s timeline then goes backwards, through their fights (See I’m Smiling), past their wedding (The Next Ten Minutes), and ends at their first date (Goodbye until Tomorrow).
Jamie’s story starts at the beginning of their relationship (Shiksa Goddess). His timeline moves forwards, through his success as an author (Moving Too Fast), past the growing resentment at Cathy not supporting his career as her own stagnates (Climbing Uphill/If I Didn’t Believe in You), and eventually culminates in him writing the note that ends their marriage (I Could Never Rescue You). The only time the couple connect is during their wedding song, The Next Ten Minutes, when their timelines sync. This is a duet, and the sole scene in which they share mutual affection, instead of singing over each other – for once they are on the same page. The division between the two is highlighted by the way they interact outside of the wedding song: at one point, Cathy hugs Jamie from behind while he is seemingly unaware of her, and lies on his lap as he continues to play the piano, as if he doesn’t know she is there.
The set of The Last 5 Years is deliberately claustrophobic. Oli and Molly remain on stage throughout each other’s songs, maintaining the mood of their timeline, regardless of what the other is doing. The staging is fairly sparse, with a large piano in the middle, large lit-up letters spelling out “L 5 Y” and various props brought on for specific numbers, such as a dollhouse, a sheet and a plant.
Sound effects and flashing lights start the show off to give viewers a sense of New York, where the story begins.The costumes are simple but effective: Jamie always wears black, Cathy wears white, but little details are added to reflect the relevant events, such as a bow tie for the wedding or glasses for a reading recital. The lighting changes to reflect the mood. Initially, it is red for Jamie’s songs and blue for Cathy’s, to foreground the passion in one and sadness in the other.
Oli Higginson is dynamic, charismatic and makes his character instantly appealing, despite the fact he is painted as the villain in the opening number (Still Hurting). His charisma is particularly remarkable in The Schmuel Song, where he jumps onto the piano, leg on the doll house, obviously enjoying the “na na na na”s. Molly Lynch also brings warmth and self-deprecation to her character, especially during Climbing Uphill/Audition Sequence. Both are talented, passionate performers, and they have undeniable chemistry, despite barely interacting with one another on-stage.
The Last Five Years is a beautifully sad and yet also strikingly funny story about how, ultimately, neither Cathy nor Jamie is right or wrong. One can see the moments when things might have been different if one or the other had made another choice, and how they each needed the reassurance and consideration from the other that they ultimately didn’t get. This show is for everyone who has ever lost love, and holds a valuable lesson for those who want to do it right next time.
The Last Five Years is at Garrick Theatre from 17th September until 17th October 2021. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.